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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

And Let Us Begin On The Future...

The story below comes from Reuters via Yahoo! News

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Tough security and an informal rebel truce stifled all but sporadic violence the day before the election in Iraq, as U.S. President George W. Bush admitted on Wednesday his decision to go to war to topple Saddam Hussein was based on faulty intelligence.

The general calm in Iraq was punctuated only by a few attacks concentrated in the north and by protests by religious Shi'ites against a perceived insult to their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Al Jazeera television.

Bush, in the last of four pre-election speeches defending his Iraq strategy against wide public disapproval defended his decision to go to war even though the weapons of mass destruction touted as a reason for the war were never found.

"It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. As president I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq, and I am also responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities and we're doing just that," he said.

But he said, "My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision" because he was deemed a threat and that regardless, "We are in Iraq today because our goal has always been more than the removal of a brutal dictator."

The president urged Americans to be patient as Iraqis voted and formed a new government, which he said showed signs of being more inclusive. "As Sunnis join the political process, Iraqi democracy becomes more inclusive and the terrorists and Saddamists become marginalized."

The Shi'ite protests across southern Iraq highlighted sectarian tension clouding Thursday's parliamentary election.
In the town of Nassiriya protesters burned down a campaign office for Iyad Allawi, a secular leader who has mounted a strong challenge to the ruling Shi'ite Islamist bloc.

Iraq's Al Qaeda vowed on the Internet to disrupt an election it called a "'democratic' wedding of atheism and fornication."

But the group led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi mounted none of its trademark bloody suicide bombings.

A roadside bomb aimed at an Iraqi patrol killed a child in Samarra and another took the lives of two policemen in Mosul. A Trade Ministry employee was shot dead in Baiji, police said.

Small explosive devices damaged three empty polling stations in the restive western city of Falluja, police said. No one was hurt but 4,000 ballot papers were stolen.

Amid the calm imposed by a three-day traffic ban, sealed borders, heavy policing and closure of workplaces, some Iraqis were optimistic about a vote that will complete the U.S. timetable for setting up democratic structures in Iraq.
"We know there could be bombings but we're not worried as everyone is voting," said Amin Ali Hussein, a 22-year-old soldier manning a checkpoint in Baghdad.

He contrasted the poll to a January 30 election boycotted by angry Sunni Arabs. Insurgents killed about 40 people in bombings and shootings on polling day.

"There is a quiet confidence that things are going to go well," the U.N. envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, told Reuters.
In the western city of Ramadi, where anti-American Sunni rebels had promised to defend polling stations against Islamist al Qaeda fighters, gunmen patrolled some streets. As elsewhere, the 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq kept mostly out of sight.
Many in the 20-percent Sunni Arab minority, dominant until U.S. troops ousted Saddam Hussein, seem determined to vote to ensure a say in a new fully-empowered, four-year parliament.

"We won't miss this opportunity," said Ibrahim Ismail, a 30-year-old labourer in the violent northern city of Mosul, saying he would vote for one of the main Sunni Arab slates in 231 lists available to Iraq's 15 million eligible voters.

From 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (0400-1400 GMT), Iraqis will walk to polling stations to vote after dipping a finger in purple ink.

For many Sunnis, the priority after the vote is to amend a constitution, drafted by the Shi'ite and Kurdish-dominated parliament and narrowly passed in an October referendum.

Bush and his Baghdad envoy Zalmay Khalilzad this week reiterated their commitment to supporting the amendment process Washington sees as an olive branch to defuse Sunni rebellion.

With Sunni Arabs ending their boycott of the U.S.-sponsored process, turnout could reach 70 percent, up from 58 percent in January, Vice-President Adel Abdel Mehdi told Reuters.

That alone is likely to deprive Mehdi's United Iraqi Alliance, the Shi'ite Islamist coalition, of its narrow majority in the 275-seat chamber.

Tarek al-Hashemi, a leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, forecasted at least 50 seats for his Sunni bloc, a major improvement on the 17 Sunni Arabs in the present parliament.

Even if violence dampens voting in Sunni Arab areas, guaranteed regional seats will mean they will not be as penalized by low turnout as they were in January.

Results are likely to take many days to be announced, the Electoral Commission said, while horsetrading over a president, prime minister and government could take months.

Among favorites for premier are Mehdi and Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and tough-talking former prime minister, who is picking up tacit approval from Washington and possibly Sunni Arab votes.

For many Iraqis, however, the election is no quick fix.

"I don't care about anything but bringing food to my babies," said Hamed Nasser, 49, a taxi driver in the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala. "We are fed up of promises from parties."

First, to the final point made. It's understandable that some people aren't persuaded. Remember, the Sunnis weren't in January. They're participating now. I'm sure Mr. Nasser will, too. Maybe not tomorrow, but he'll learn soon enough what it means to have the freedom to choose their leaders.

But, this is what it was like as yesterday (today over here in the US) came to a close. Iraq is ready. They're willing. And they're marching towards a possibly bright and shining future. KEEP AN EYE ON Pajamas Media and Iraq The Model for updates on the election. We'll be here tomorrow, too, and keeping everyone as informed as we can.


Publius II


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good blog. I've said many times that freedom is contagious. We are seeing Iraq moving into this century. They have a long way to go and the road will be bumpy but the people are determined. Tomorrow is purple finger day! Rawriter

10:31 PM  

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